By December Ndhlovu, FXN Provincial Co-ordinator, Mpumalanga
Service delivery protests have become a daily practice in Bushbuckridge. Since the 3rd of March this year, for about two weeks, protesters took to the R40 road and blocked it with burning tyres, forcing motorists to seek alternative routes to Hazyview, Mkhuhlu, Thulamahashe and Acornhoek. The R40 road is the main gate-way from Nelspruit through Bushbuckridge to Limpopo province via Hoedspruit. The protest is about massive potholes and eroded roads in the townships and villages around Bushbuckridge.
Community members burnt down school and are demanding that the government build tarred roads. The protests have caused some schools in Marite to shut down for about two months now. In Marite residents are demanding that the 14km dust road from Marite to Hoxane and a 10km from Marite to Jim Brown be tarred as a matter of urgency. Schools that have been burnt, according to the Police spokesperson are Bakutsoe High School, Lamulelani High, Kwanang Primary School and Rindzani High in and around Marite and Calcutta.
The Premier Mr DD Mabuza and MEC for Public Works have tried but failed to calm the situation down. There are about three people that have been hospitalized as the results of these recurring protests. Five men are in custody for looting foreign-owned shops during the uprising.
The situation in Bushbuckridge needs urgent attention as it is almost over six weeks of unrest in the whole of Bushbuckridge from Marite across to Acornhoek. The damage to the roads is mainly because of the recent massive due to the Dineo cyclone that ravaged our neighbours Mozambique badly. FXI and FXN condemn the destruction of private and public property. The FXI and FXN urge residents to exercise their right to protest in a manner that does not infringe on the rights of learners to education.
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As a response to the on-going protests against fees increases, Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town have filed interdicts that effectively supress the rights of students to protest and quell their freedom of assembly. The FXI condemns the universities’ reaction as a violation of the student rights – a desperate attempt to silence students.
The interdicts have not resulted in any alleviation of the crisis, but have rather allowed an already volatile situation to exacerbate, while criminalising the legitimate exercise of the students’ right to protest. Students have been arrested and detained, detracting from any constructive processes aimed at resolving the grievances. The universities should let students exercise their right to protest, as long as it is carried within legal limits.
Inquiries to: Siphiwe Segodi, Project Officer, and Nomagugu Nyathi, Research Officer, Freedom of Expression Institute, 1st Floor, 1 Richmond Forum, 18 Cedar Avenue, Richmond, 2092, Johannesburg Tel: +27-11-482-1913, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org